Why Not Vaccinating Your Kids Seems Safe (But Isn’t)

What every anti-vaxxer imagines, child in pain under vaccine

What anti-vaxxers imagines when they think “vaccine”- pain for their child. But it isn’t that simple. Source: Rauf Maltas, Getty

Last year, a massive measles outbreak in California led officials at the Centers For Disease Control to wonder just what might be causing so many new infections of a disease they thought had under control. The answer was simple: increasingly more people are choosing not to vaccinate their children.

The process of vaccination involves injecting a small amount of deactivated or dead virus into the body so that the body’s natural defenses can strengthen an immunity to it. It’s kind of like getting the other team’s playbook before the big game. These deactivated forms of viruses are used to prevent an extensive list of diseases, including pneumonia, whooping cough, influenza, and tuberculosis–preventable diseases that kill millions of people every year.

Of course, in a very small number of cases, that amount of deactivated virus can cause sickness, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. The concerns of anti-vaxxers are many, and range from the absurd, like claims that vaccines lead to an increased risk for autism (which has been proven false many times) to the seemingly reasonable worry that these diseases simply don’t pose enough of a threat–nor do we understand enough about the chemicals in the vaccine themselves–to deliberately expose children to them. Of course, no one wants to expose their children to something that could possibly hurt them, but here’s why anti-vaxxers are doing more harm than they might think:

A child, without the vaccine, will become sick when exposed to measles.

A child, without the vaccine, will become sick when exposed to measles. Source: Julian Harneis

Anti-vaccination parents often cite information from unreliable sources. Many anti-vaxxers take their cues from inaccurate and unscientific sites like this popular one called VaxTruth.org, where Guest Author Dawn Babcock Papple (capitalization hers) proceeds to show readers screenshots of her computer’s calculator to prove, unequivocally, that she’s done the math on the measles vaccine and it’s a bunch of hokey. Papple cites her own graphs created in Microsoft Word and this apocryphal piece of medical science from 1936.

Graph of the incidence of measles since 1962

Graph of the incidence of measles since 1962. Source: McLean, et. al

The numbers from the Centers For Disease Control tell a different story, however. In 1998, there were 89 cases of measles with no deaths, while there have been 68 cases reported since January 1st of this year. Remember, these are only the numbers for measles– at least 1,300 people have died from vaccine-preventable diseases in this country, this year, in the first 10 days of January alone.

Chris Altman
Chris Altman is a freelancing writer and artist based out of Brooklyn, NY.
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